Does it matter that they have the offense date wrong?

Your first question when you see the indictment is likely to be “Does it matter that they have the offense date wrong?” An indictment often lists the offense date as “On or about” (specific date). This legal terminology signifies that the listed offense date is an approximation, and not an actual date.

I have seen often an indictment list the offense date as “Between the months of January and July of (year).” An indictment often presents such a wide date range when multiple counts are alleged.

This can be frustrating, because if the listed offense date listed is a day that you were out of town, could present alibi witnesses, or had no contact with the victim, you will naturally want to present such evidence. However, trying to defend against the “on or about” wording is like trying to shoot at a moving target. As soon as you say, “I was out of town on Thursday,” the judge will clarify that it doesn’t have to be that particular date, and the prosecution will tell the jury that it could have been on Wednesday or Friday.

It may seem unfair, but it is very easy for the prosecutor to explain that a child or adult victim cannot remember the exact date that it occurred, and juries are generally forgiving about such details – they’re much more interested in whether it happened at all, not the exact date of the alleged event.

How can it not matter that the prosecution can’t even tell the jury what date this supposedly happened? This a good, common-sense question, but the answer is because the date that it happened is not an essential element of the offense. The only time that the date matters is when it affects the age of a minor victim (which can affect the charge itself). Otherwise, if the jury is satisfied that the offense occurred and isn’t bothered by the fact that the prosecution could not provide a specific date, this will not be a good issue for appeal.

To be sure, the fact that the prosecution cannot say when an offense occurred is something to consider (like, did this actually happen?), but in many ways, the fact that the prosecution cannot pin down a date hurts your case as much as it hurts theirs because it makes it so difficult for you to defend against.

Don’t spin your wheels trying to prove all of the places that you weren’t over the last six months. Instead, hire a Sex Crime Attorney to discuss more effective ways to fight these unique sex offense cases.